Volunteering to Help Women Recover from Homelessness
Grace is a a gardening volunteer at a women’s only hostel in Westminster, which helps people who’ve experienced homelessness develop horticultural skills, and even gain qualifications.
We asked what International Women’s Day means to her, and how her volunteering has helped support women who’ve experienced homelessness.
I’m a Gardening Volunteer during the spring and summer at one of the Westminster Women’s Wellbeing accommodation services. Gardening has many broad and diverse benefits which include improved mental and physical health, less social isolation and a sense of fulfilment when a plant is grown.
The women I support found great satisfaction in the success of our flowers and one of them created a healthy routine which involved getting up in the morning to tend to the plants whilst getting some fresh air. I believe that all of these benefits, whilst making a positive improvement to their space, support women who are recovering from a period of homelessness.
In a previous volunteering role at StreetLink, I spoke to many women who were experiencing homelessness. They didn’t feel safe bedding down to sleep rough at night due to the increased risk of abuse or violence. They were more likely to try and find somewhere to sofa surf or keep moving throughout the night which meant that they couldn’t access as many services.
There are many amazing women’s specialist support services and specific times at day centres for women’s -only spaces, but I don’t believe that this is enough. Women’s services need to be safe for women to attend and get support, especially if they are fleeing from dangerous situations. This means that women’s services need to be consulted on by women with lived experience, integrated into homelessness services and they need to be taken seriously.
In my opinion, in order to prevent women’s homelessness, there needs to be more funding available for women’s specialist services. This would include providing safe pathways for survivors of domestic abuse to flee from perpetrators, long term accommodation options for asylum seekers as well as specialist support for LGBTQIA+ women.
International Women’s Day means celebrating all women, especially those from marginalised communities, their achievements and using the space as a call-to-action to make the world a safer and more prosperous world.
If you’d like to make a difference and volunteer, you can find more out here.